CraftBritannia Shop of the Week #3, Susan Sharpe Ceramics
We are pleased to introduce Susan Sharpe Ceramics as our latest CraftBritannia Shop of the Week ! In our interview this week, Susan tells us about her passion for ceramics, which is evident in the subtle beauty of her work. Currently Susan makes delicate buttons and jewelry, available from her beautiful shop on Etsy.
Describe your “typical” working day or week
I don’t tend to have a “typical” working day or week. Some days I dash into the studio and work for four or five hours, and on other days I just don’t feel like it and so don’t go in there at all. I find that I spend quite a large amount of time thinking and wondering about ideas, what design to do next, or what can I do that is new? I rarely draw new designs in a sketch book, but I find my chalk board in the shed is invaluable, I can roughly sketch on there and it’s not precious and I can just scribble away – it’s very freeing!
When you are not doing Etsy related things, what are you doing?
Probably knitting! I knit just about every day. I first learned to knit when I was about 8 or 9, but only really started knitting in earnest with my first pregnancy 29 years ago. I’ve knitted most of the time since.
What was the first piece you ever sold?
My first Etsy sale was some buttons, which went to a lady in the USA that I know from Ravelry, but the first ceramic piece I ever sold was at the end of my degree show at University. It was probably a bowl, but I really don’t know as we took it in turns to man the sale. I later sold at Earth and Fire at Rufford, a large ceramic fair, on the University stand.
What advice would you give someone taking up your craft for the first time?
Get the best ceramics teacher you can. If it means doing a degree, as I had to, then do it. If it means working at a pottery, then do that. Read all you can, ask all you can. Go to the shows and ask potters questions – there are no silly questions, only ones you don’t know the answers to.
What material do you most enjoy working with?
Porcelain. I tried throwing with stoneware, but it was just soul destroying, and then I got out the white stuff and it’s like throwing with butter, but Oh so good! I just have to work with porcelain most of the time – it feels and handles like nothing else, and I just love the way it moves and feels. Yes, porcelain love has it.
If you could try a new craft, what would it be?
A new craft? Well I knit and I spin a bit, and I can do a bit with a crochet hook. I honestly don’t know what else! I’ve tried various types of sewing and embroidery, but always comes back to knitting as the main one.
Which piece of equipment would you be helpless without?
My kiln. Simple! No kiln, no pots.
Tell us about what inspires and motivates you
Glaze. I love glaze, I love what it does when it breaks on the edge of a pot, I love the way it runs, and pools, and I love the feel of the glaze, the bubbles in it, the movement of it. Glaze floats my boat any time. More than that, it’s the interaction between the glaze and the ceramic piece. Porcelain and celadon and Peach Bloom Red glazes are fantastic in the way they interact with each other – I just love opening the kiln and seeing what magic the glaze and porcelain has done together.
Tell us about one handmade item that you own and love
Oh, only one?! I have quite a large collection of hand made ceramics, mostly tea-bowls or mugs, but I do have some prize pieces. If it came down to which ones I would rescue in a fire it would have to be some tiny egg cups by Crowan Pottery, made in the mid 20th century in Cornwall. Harry and May Davis ran Crowan, and both were potters for Bernard Leach at the St. Ives pottery. The tenmoku glaze is just exquisite, and the tiny forms are just perfect and the glaze fit is as sound as it was when the pieces were made. They may be the smallest little bowls I have, but they are total quality.
What plans do you have for your shop in the future?
Keep going, keep making, keep selling. I have just started to throw again after my major operation last year, and it’s slow and steady to get the confidence back and the muscle strength back, but I do want to add thrown pieces to my Etsy shop. I don’t throw large items – things tend to be petite and probably smaller than the average mug – but that’s what I like to make.
Many thanks Susan for your inspiring words!